By Lt. Col. Shaunte Y. Cooper
Texas National Guard
HOUSTON (09/02/2008) - Hurricane Gustav did not have a huge weather impact on the Houston area which allowed the Joint Reserve Base located here at Ellington Field to serve as the ideal location to stand up air support for search and rescue operations.
Active duty members assigned to the 563rd Rescue Group (RQG) and the Air Force Reserve forces assigned to the 943rd RQG, both from Davis Monthan AFB, Ariz., joined the Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing from Moffett AFB, Calif., and the 147th Reconnaissance Wing from here at Ellington Field to provide the Governors of Louisiana and Texas air search and rescue assets.
In addition to the military support, the integrated cooperation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provided for the movement of aircraft ground equipment, which ensured smooth transition for the search and rescue missions.
On Sept. 1, aircraft arrived at Ellington throughout the day. The last aircraft to land at Ellington was a C-17 transport containing two HH-60 Pavehawk helicopters from the Alaska Air National Guard. By the end of business Monday the ramp at Ellington Field was full of aircraft ready to respond to Hurricane Gustav efforts as directed.
“This mission is a total force effort, we have the active duty, reserves and the National Guard pulling together to save lives,” said Maj. Brett Hartnett, the 563rd’s project officer. “These integrated forces set up a Rescue Operations Center at Ellington Field within two hours of being on the ground.”
Hurricane Gustav was the first time the ROC concept was implemented and operational.
The ROC is a self contained operations center, with command and control, flight surgeons, communications, plans, logistics, maintenance, intelligence, and a “Guardian Angels” element, which is a specialized rescue team. It can support humanitarian efforts and has the capability to expand to full combat operations.
“It is amazing how quickly this mission came together,” said Col. Rodney Horn, the 147th’s vice commander. “Ellington Field is now operational for 24-hour search and rescues missions. We have an important role in helping with the recovery efforts from the devastation of this storm, and we will continue operations for as long as needed.“